Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Children and Faith in Nothing

Balloon Forest (Posando en el Bosque de los Globos)

We have lovely children in our village. Not only are they polite and considerate of others, they play well together. They are on their bikes and horses, enjoying the sunshine we have finally been having these past few days. (Thankfully our area is not in a flood plain, or we would easily have had a washout with the rain this July!) And they have been out of school for Summer Holidays since the 20th of July, not to return until the 5th of September. Lucky them!

I’ve spotted a few birthday parties, with kids and parents coming and going as they stroll through the High Street and on Old School Lane, either laden with gifts brightly wrapped up on their way to the parties or gift bags full of party goodies on their way out. One can usually spot epicentres of most of the merrymaking by the multi-coloured balloons that dance and dip in smiles across the blue skies we’ve had lately.

Parties in the sunshine make kids’ eyes dance just like those balloons. Their eyes also dance with anticipation and excitement when they describe their holiday plans to you. One little girl bubbled over to tell us that she had to get up at 3.30am in order to catch her flight to Spain for a couple of weeks on a sandy, sunny beach with her grandparents. Her words tripped out of her mouth, she was so excited! A summer tradition for many British children, fond memories of sunny beaches in Spain with Grandma and Grandpa well up intensely each year about this time as they get ready packing their swimming kits to go again.

If 'a child shall lead them', then who leads the child?

I hope that along with the sun and the beaches the adults in their lives will guide these kids to other sacred places on a holiday Sunday and take some time out to reflect and worship God in a different setting, possibly unusual yet all-inspiring. As those adults who are in charge of the kids on holiday pack the picnic supplies, sun-screen, and other necessary personal effects needed for their outings, perhaps they could also prepare for an enlightened worship experience.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could bottle up all this Holiday Excitement – all the laughter, bright eyes, bubbles, and anticipation – and transport it to our church sanctuary this coming Sunday for our monthly All-Age Worship service? Last month our village
Girl Guides led a wonderful service. This month most of them will probably be away.

This Sunday, for those children in our village who won’t be at a sunny beach in Spain, they can come and see the rays of Light stream through our stained-glass windows – it won’t rain because we received the rainfall for August in July! They can feel the warmth bounce off the centuries-old stones in the nave as we sing praises and read the scriptures. They can be uplifted in song as one of their peers, an accomplished young violinist, helps me lead a few hymns. And they can see how much their presence and fellowship lifts the spirits of those who commune sweetly and regularly every Sunday. All Saints – both old and young alike.

Most of today’s parents are busy teaching their children the Faith in Nothing. Imparting a deep and abiding faith in God, indeed the Trinity, is not very high on their list of priorities. Oh, there are quite a few reasons for this, and some are valid.

Top Ten Reasons Why I Don’t Do Church
10. The old vicar we used to have hated me when I was a kid;
9. Church is so boring -- me and my child need to be engaged in the worship activity;
8. I couldn’t possibly be a hypocrite!
7. The church is so cold, my child will get sick;
6. We're so busy in the week, my child needs all day Sunday to revise for exams;
5. I don't read or study the Bible because it's not the vocation I chose;
4. I’m not charismatic; I prefer the higher end of the Cross;
3. I can't stand the organist; I prefer a worship band;
2. The music is dead;
1. Most of the people who show up are nearly dead.

At the end of the day, many of these reasons have settled into becoming excuses. We get what we give, and let's face it, the society we live in is one that would rather get. But quite rightly many of these Top Ten ought to be revisited by the church leaders. If the Bishops and Canons and Archdeacons and Rural Deans could get over their collective 'bums in seats' mentality, revise their property issues, and release certain theological holds -- over things like, oh, say 'communion by extension' -- to be more about the Kingdom of Heaven instead of the earthly bottom line, then they might get a picture of the results God intended in the first place when he decided to become incarnate through Jesus the Christ.

Ah, I digress. Back to the village...

Our sanctuary is childless on most Sundays.
It’s true that most of the month’s Sunday kid sightings are at our village churches’ joint Sunday School programme held in the Baptist Chapel. Even then, the most children aged 4 to 8 that come number only as many as six or eight. Children older than that are elsewhere with their parents, practicing their Faith in Nothing. It used to be that, at least in our village, if the children had parents who applied a Faith in Nothing, that they would at least be taught the hymns and scriptures in RE at school. But that is not the case now. Oh, they can sing the usual hymns they hear at football games and any weddings they might attend. I can count those on the fingers of one hand:
  1. Abide with me
  2. All things bright and beautiful
  3. Amazing grace
  4. Love’s divine
  5. Jerusalem
'God save the Queen' is a given.

This Sunday, if we have more than one child visit our All-Age Worship (the young violinist is a teenager, and a visitor as well), what a celebration we shall have – break out the balloons! If it were up to me, I would have them
dancing in the bright blue sky from the path leading into the church, and they would be floating from the ancient stones and pews as well. We will worship in sacred space and we will worship in splendour.

And hopefully, these precious children who grow up with a Faith in Nothing will discover not only a Faith in Something, but will see Christ incarnate within us and desire to know him personally.

(Hebrews 12.7-10 is the scripture from the TNIV bar on the left that displayed on the day I posted this.)


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